If rumors about the Xian H-20 come true, it will be a huge step forward for China’s strategic bomber.
In May 2020, amid a fierce China-US conflict surrounding the COVID-19 epidemic, China Military Online revealed: on May 10, China conducted a test flight of the H-20 stealth bomber, although the PLA has not confirmed this information yet.
A recent article in the South China Morning Post, revealed that China’s Xian H-20 stealth bomber is likely to make its first public appearance at the Zhuhai air show in Guangdong province in November.
Development of the H-20 is believed to have begun in the early 2000s. So far, China has only confirmed the existence of the H-20 stealth bomber twice in 2016 and 2018, respectively. According to some Chinese experts, China’s new stealth bomber will be able to enter service as early as 2025.
According to the 2020 China Military Power Report, the United States believes that the Chinese Air Force, the third largest in the world, owns a total of 2,500 aircraft, is a major threat to the United States.
The current Chinese strategic bomber is the Xian H-6, which is an upgraded version of the Soviet-era Tu-16 bomber. Compared with advanced American bombers such as the B-1B, B2, B-21 and the Russian Tu-160 supersonic bomber, the Chinese plane is far behind. If rumors about the Xian H-20 come true, it will be a huge step forward for China’s strategic bomber.
Leaks about Xian H-20
Chinese military planes are inspired or copied from Russian or American designs, and the Xian H-20 seems no exception. Until now, the Xian H-20 remained a Chinese military secret. Most recently, in May 2018, China Aviation Industry Corporation published a video of a mysterious plane with a flying wing design, similar to the US B-2. It is considered the precursor to the stealth bomber H-20.
The ability to build large aircraft with stealth capabilities is a prerequisite for building the H-20. In fact, following China’s success on the J-20, J-31 stealth fighter and Y-20 transport aircraft, China’s development of the H-20 should not come as a surprise. The H-20 is said to be made of about 80% carbon fiber material, Some parts of the airframe can be made of titanium alloy.
The leaked information about the new Chinese bomber shows that the H-20 is a simulation of the US F-117 – the first stealth aircraft in the world. The Chinese military has never revealed the specifications of the H-20. However, the Chinese media repeatedly published graphic images of this mysterious aircraft.
The US military estimates that the aircraft has a range of up to 8,500 km. It is designed to carry both conventional and nuclear weapons, delivering attacks with high precision. In addition to mimicking the design of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, it is also predicted that the H-20 will refer to the aerodynamic layout of the US B-2 Spirit strategic bomber.
According to some unconfirmed sources on the Chinese network, the H-20 will use four WS-18 or D-30KP2 jet engines, with supersonic speeds and stealth capabilities. The H-20 can carry CJ-20 cruise missiles, which has a range of up to 2,500km.
It is reported that the H-20’s combat power can be five times that of the H-6K, making it the only Chinese plane that can take off from the mainland to strike US territory and the majority of targets globally. In the future, when the H-20 is mass produced, Beijing’s dream of building a strategic air force will initially be realized.
It has also been suggested that the H-20 will replace the current role of the H-6K strategic bomber. China’s official media said that in the context of increasing Sino-US competition, it is time to make the H-20 public.
The Xian H-20 project is very important to China
Why is Strategic Bomber so important to China? Modern military challenges and pressures have become an important issue in ensuring China’s sovereignty security. These factors compel the PLA to develop a new type of strategic bomber.
The current H-6 bomber has been upgraded several times, but admittedly it is no longer suitable for the modern warfare. From H-6A to H-6N, just upgraded versions of H-6, even if China builds to H-6Z, it will still be considered obsolete. How frightening its technique is, it cannot keep up with the US B1B strategic bomber.
Most importantly, although the H-6 can carry nuclear weapons and advanced air-to-air cruise missiles, its cruise capability is limited, significantly reducing the deterrence and combat effectiveness of these weapon systems. The deterrent ability of this aircraft is not even that of the Russian Tu-95 bomber.
Once the H-20 is born, it will make China officially complete its nuclear strike capabilities: in the air, on land and at sea. The ability to air attack with conventional ammunition will also turn into a new page, especially with advanced air defense systems such as Russia and the US.
The Xian H-20 is a threat to the United States
For the United States, the arrival of the H-20 would pose a real threat. With a range of between 8,000 and 10,000 km, the H-20 can attack any target within more than half of the Pacific.
With the CJ-20 cruise missile with a range of 2,500 km, the H-20 can completely threaten North America, not to mention the DF-17 missile or some other nuclear warhead-equipped missiles.
This is an absolute “nightmare” for America. Historically, apart from strategic missiles, only Soviet strategic bombers in the Cold War era could pose a threat to American territory.
The theory is like that. But keep in mind that over the years, rumors of the H-20’s maiden flight have popped up more than once, and without any confirmation thereafter. The plane has yet to take off, without any credible images, the public introduction is still far off.
Is the Xian H-20 true or just a rumor?
The experience of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War shows that the development of a modern strategic bomber is very costly and time consuming. That is why Russia and the US, while developing bomber projects, also pay more attention to modernizing existing assets.
It is too early to tell when the H-20 will show up and what possibilities will be available. In short, the H-20 remains a machine with an uncertain future.
The real Chinese concern is probably not the H-20 project, but the upgrading of the old H-6 class. China’s mass production of H-6K bombers has dramatically changed the balance of power in the region. It was followed by the appearance of the H-6N version. H-6’s range could increase further as the PLAAF has more heavy refueling aircraft. The result was a significant expansion of the operational area of PLAAF bombers.
Rumors of the H-20 may be just a product of the Chinese media, intended to distract from the real growth in Chinese bomber capabilities.
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